We love to think of our animal companions as being friendly and docile, but are they really? Well, that probably depends on how you define “docile”.
Your lovable family dog may not be so docile if an intruder threatens its pack. Your fluffy pet rabbit will probably defend itself if it’s really in trouble.
Even most docile animals have the capacity to be aggressive, even dangerous when they need to, but there are undoubtedly many species with a natural gentle streak.
Many of them are that way because they’ve been domesticated and had docility bred into them. Some are totally wild and are just naturally lovable.
Here are some of our favorites!
List of Most Docile Animals in the World
Dogs (Canis familiaris)
“Man’s best friend”, how could they not be on this list of docile creatures? Though they come in all shapes and sizes, all dogs share a common need for love and affection.
As pack animals, they have evolved to be a part of a family and to get along with others.
Since being domesticated, this has become even more true, making them one of the world’s most popular companion animals.
Much of their ancestors’ prey drive and aggression have been bred out of modern dogs, leaving only their protective side. That said, as with any companion animal, they do need proper training and socialization to live comfortably in the human world.
In the right hands, dogs make wonderful additions to any family and will make it their life’s work to shower you with affection (and drool) every day of their lives.
Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus domesticus)
Another popular docile animal, the rabbit, has been kept by humans since the time of the Romans. These small herbivores are prey animals in the wild and would rather run from danger than fight it.
Though they can bite if they feel really threatened, they rarely do, particularly not someone they trust.
As pets, rabbits that are properly socialized bond quickly with their owners, and are playful and affectionate.
Domestic rabbits have been bred for their docility, so are less fearful and more friendly than their wild cousins.
Cats (Felis catus)
Cats have a reputation for being stubborn creatures and “not as friendly as dogs”. This is a little unfair, as they are different animals with very different social structures.
Dogs are pack animals and are naturally very expressive. There is often a misconception that cats are loners, but in the wild, cats tend to form small groups or families.
This is because contrary to popular belief, they are actually sociable animals, they just don’t need to be a part of a pack.
With their loved ones (as any cat owner will verify), cats are incredibly affectionate, loyal, and gentle.
They have been known to risk their lives fighting off much larger animals, including dogs and even bears, to protect their families. But they are selective.
Cats don’t behave this way with just anybody. So if a cat decides to be your friend, consider it a compliment, and enjoy seeing a side of it that not everybody has a chance to!
Capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)
These big cute rodents look like giant guinea pigs, and are, in fact, closely related to them. They have a similar temperament to guinea pigs too, as they are friendly, inquisitive, and affectionate.
These semi-aquatic docile creatures are the largest rodents on the planet, growing up to 2-feet tall. Despite their size, capybaras are gentle creatures and highly social.
They live in groups of up to 100 individuals and communicate almost constantly with squeaks, grunts, and purrs.
While their loving characters may make them attractive pets, they require very specific care and are illegal to own in most countries.
Sheep (Ovis aries)
There is a reason why people tell you to count sheep if you can’t sleep: they are distinctly non-threatening. The sheep were first domesticated around 12000 years ago and used for their wool, milk, and meat, much as it is today.
Sheep are sensitive and docile animals and are highly communicative with one another.
They are not territorial, but they are protective of the herd and will defend themselves if absolutely necessary. Like many domesticated animals, sheep have been bred to be more docile than their wild counterparts.
Despite a common stereotype, however, sheep are not stupid and can recognize different people, facial expressions, as well as vocal and physical commands or cues.
The dove has been a symbol of peace throughout history. In ancient Japan, it represented the end of the war. In ancient Greece, it was a symbol of love and life renewed.
In 1949, Picasso’s depiction of a dove became an international symbol of peace as the emblem for the World Peace Congress.
There are several different species of dove, but they are universally shy and quiet. Doves are affectionate creatures, which mate for life.
They can be kept as pets, and many find their quiet companionship and soft calls soothing, but they require a very gentle hand and can be overwhelmed by too much hands-on attention.
Read Also: Cowardly Animals
Sea Turtles (Chelonioidea)
There are seven distinct species of sea turtle in the world, but all share a few common personality traits. Sea turtles are timid, gentle, and harmless.
These peaceful creatures mostly feed off seagrass and plants, but some species “hunt” jellyfish (i.e. follow the jellyfish with their mouths open until they’ve swallowed it), crustaceans, and small fish.
Despite their shyness, sea turtles are inquisitive and will sometimes approach divers in the wild. A sea turtle’s only real means of defense is its shell, which makes them easy prey for humans, who use them for their shells, leather, and meat.
Unfortunately, many species are critically endangered because of this, as well as pollution and habitat destruction.
Elephants (Loxodonta africana)
As the largest living land mammals, you would think elephants can behave pretty much however they want. Nobody’s going to argue with over 6-tons of tusk and muscle!
But elephants are surprisingly peaceful animals. These highly intelligent, social, and empathetic creatures help others in distress, mourn and bury their dead, and spray dust on each other’s wounds to protect them from flies.
In captivity, they are known to enjoy music and painting, selecting colors that represent their environments.
When treated with respect and kindness, they can bond very closely with humans and will go out of their way to help them.
There are countless instances of elephants, both in the wild and in captivity, demonstrating a degree of self-awareness, empathy, and compassion to rival our own.
Llamas (Lama glama)
Despite their reputation for spitting at people, llamas are usually docile creatures. They are native to South America and were first domesticated around 5000 years ago when they were used as pack animals and for their fleece.
Since then, llamas have been used all over the world for a range of different purposes.
They are sociable and loyal and also very protective of people or animals. Because of this, llamas are often used to guard livestock and will fight off dogs, coyotes, and other potential threats.
Their unique personalities, comical expressions, and friendly nature also make llamas great companion animals.
Bats have really been dealt a poor hand by humans. As mostly nocturnal cave-dwellers, these little mammals have been associated with dark, dank and creepy for generations.
But this is a reputation they haven’t earned. Contrary to urban myths, they will not fly at your head, claw at your eyes, or drink your blood.
They are actually very careful flyers and use ultrasound to avoid large and dangerous obstacles (like humans).
Between the minute, 1-inch Kitti’s hog-nosed bat and the fuzzy, bright-eyed giant golden-crowned flying fox – weighing up to 3.5 pounds. Almost all bats are either insectivores or frugivores, and all of them are naturally gentle.
Of the 1400 species worldwide, only one feeds on blood, and it is so small that its prey usually doesn’t even notice it’s there!
Last but not least, the manatee absolutely deserves a place on our list of most docile animals. These gentle, 3-ton giants are aquatic herbivores and spend their days grazing on seagrass.
Adult manatees have no natural predators, but this is only because of their size, not because they have any real means of defending themselves.
Manatees are non-dangerous, intelligent, curious, and friendly animals. In the wild, it is not uncommon for them to approach humans and try to interact with them or seemingly ask to be petted.
Because they are endangered, and humans are their biggest threat, some countries have laws in place to prevent humans from getting too close. These laws have proven difficult to regulate, however, as the manatees routinely get too close to humans!